A season that began with a series of setbacks ended in a final act of frustration for Pepperdine on Saturday night.
The Waves rallied to take the lead with three minutes left, but St. Mary's made the big plays down the stretch to pull out a 75-71 victory in a second-round game of the West Coast Conference men's basketball tournament at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The lead changed hands eight times in the final six minutes, the last time on Adam Caporn's three-point shot for a 70-68 St. Mary's lead with 2:32 left. Two free throws by Jonathon Sanders, who led the Gaels with 23 points, made it 72-68 with 38.3 seconds left.
Pepperdine (15-13) pulled within 73-71 on a three-pointer by Mike Westphal with 11 seconds left, but Daniel Kickert made two free throws with 8.1 seconds left to secure the Gaels' victory. St. Mary's shot 70.8% (17 of 24) in the second half.
Senior forward Jimmy Miggins scored 23 points for the Waves, who rallied from a nine-point deficit in the second half and took their final lead, 68-67, on a three-pointer by Terrance Johnson with three minutes left.
In tonight's semifinals, St. Mary's (15-14) will play top-seeded Gonzaga (22-7) at 9 and third-seeded San Francisco (15-13) meets second-seeded San Diego (16-11) at 6:30.
The loss ends Pepperdine's streak of qualifying for postseason play at four years.
St. Mary's used a 14-2 run to take a 54-45 lead midway through the second half.
During the stretch, Pepperdine center Derick Grubb inadvertently tipped in a basket for St. Mary's trying to rebound a missed free throw and Coach Paul Westphal was called for a technical foul for arguing that Mike Westphal, his son, was fouled on a missed three-point attempt.
San Francisco 70, Loyola Marymount 56 -- One good half was all the Lions (11-20) could muster against the Dons (15-13), who pulled away after leading by two at halftime for their first WCC tournament victory since 1998.
San Francisco opened the second half with a 10-0 run, forcing the Lions into five turnovers in the first four minutes, to take a 46-34 lead.
After shooting 53.6% in the first half, Loyola made only six of 21 shots (28.6%) from the field in the second half.
Senior forward Darrell Tucker, a projected NBA draft pick, led San Francisco with 26 points and 11 rebounds.